Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft Named in Honor of Legendary Space Industry Executive J.R. Thompson
Launch Will Take Place May 21 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility
DULLES, Va.–Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced it is set to launch the company’s AntaresTM rocket carrying its CygnusTM cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station for NASA. Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch will take place Monday, May 21 with lift-off scheduled for 4:39 a.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
The mission, designated OA-9, will be Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo delivery mission for NASA. The Antares medium-class rocket will match its record for the heaviest cargo load carried to date with approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of vital supplies and scientific equipment that will support the crew aboard the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous and berth with the station on May 24, 2018. This mission marks the first flight for Cygnus’s upgraded communications system, known as Common Communication for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2), which provides the opportunity for enhanced communication with science payloads and an improved interface with hosted payloads on future missions.
Orbital ATK names each Cygnus spacecraft in honor of astronauts and individuals who contributed to the United States’ commercial space program. The OA-9 mission honors J.R. Thompson, a distinguished leader in the aerospace industry. Thompson helped shape the strategy and directed the operations of Orbital ATK’s predecessor company, Orbital Sciences Corporation, for nearly 25 years. Before joining Orbital, Thompson was NASA’s Deputy Administrator in Washington, D.C., from 1989 to 1991, following a three-year period as Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Upon arrival at the space station, the “S.S. J.R. Thompson” will be unloaded and prepped for the next phase of its mission. Cygnus will remain docked for approximately seven weeks to allow the astronauts aboard the space station to repack the module with items that are no longer needed on the orbiting laboratory. The removal of these objects is a crucial step in keeping the International Space Station operational. Once Cygnus is unberthed, a NanoRacks deployer will deploy six cubesats. Upon completion of its secondary missions, Cygnus will perform a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Under the CRS-1 contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 66,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. To date Orbital ATK has delivered nearly 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) and will complete its CRS-1 contract with the OA-10 mission this fall and the OA-11 mission next year.